Sisters of the Bruce 1292-1314 by J. M. Harvey

Publication Date: November 21, 2013
Publisher: Troubador Publishing LTD.
My source: Netgalley
Genre: History/Literature/Adult Fiction
Pages: 496
ISBN: 978-1780885018

‘Set against the wild and perilous background of Scotland in the late 13th century, the adventurous lives of Robert the Bruce’s five sisters come to life through their own words in a series of letters. Courage and tenacity are often associated with Scotland’s great hero, but few appreciate the enormous challenges experienced by these remarkable sisters. Their intimate account of family life resonates still with love, loss and hope. Isa leaves home to sail to the land of the Vikings to become Queen of Norway whilst her sister, Kirsty, finds herself Countess of Mar and chatelaine of the great Kildrummy Castle in Scotland’s far northeast. Danger looms and the younger sisters, Mathilda and Margaret, escape to Orkney with Kirsty’s children.

As Scotland spirals into war, Robert’s sisters face the wrath of King Edward of England, whose vengeance wrought the brutal death of William Wallace. Kirsty is incarcerated alone in an English nunnery, whilst Mary endures years of misery within a cage hanging from the walls of Roxburgh Castle. Under Robert’s kingship, old wounds heal and Scotland’s fighting force achieves a resounding victory at the Battle of Bannockburn. Only then are the fragile, traumatised women released, through the ransoming of English nobles, to return home to rebuild their shattered lives… Sisters of The Bruce is a captivating work of fiction that weaves family history with a gripping narrative through the social and political landscape of medieval Scotland, Norway and Orkney. J. M. Harvey has been inspired by Sharon Penman, Elizabeth Chadwick and Sigrud Undset.’

This historical fiction novel is told through letters between siblings Isa and Kirsty with an occasional letter from brother Robert thrown in for the first part of the book. The latter part is third person narrative. Although the author obviously did great research and all the details are there it just didn’t pop for me. Written as a historical fiction, it read more like a historical non-fiction as it just didn’t have the ‘novel’ feel about. I couldn’t get invested in the characters or the storyline. It was a little flat. Actually by the second half I was skimming just to get done. It’s a lengthy book at 496 pages.

We do get a glimpse of the history of Norway as well as Scotland through letters from Isa Bruce who became Queen of Norway. The medieval world was describe quite well. I would say if you like history this is a good book if you go into it not looking for a ‘novel’ you will connect with the characters in, but more as a well researched historical record.

Peggy Ann

Read Scotland 2014, Meet the Protagonist Challenge, Mount TBR 2014

3 thoughts on “Sisters of the Bruce 1292-1314 by J. M. Harvey

  1. Hi Peggy,

    I generally quite enjoy both historical and epistolary novels and with the sheer barbarism of the period, for me this book should have the winning combination. The author is obvioulsy very passionate about her subject, although as a debut novel, it does sound a little long at around 500 pages.

    I am sorry that you didn't enjoy this one a s much as you might have hoped, however your review was very even handed and fair and I am still going to add it to my reading list.

    All belated Best Wishes for the New Year,



  2. I enjoy all those things too Yvonne, but since I already 'knew' this story her writing just lacked that emotional connection to keep me really interested. I thought in this form it would come more alive for me, but it didn't. The length really didn't help.


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